Misamis Oriental

Daughters of Misamis Oriental cult murder victim unremorseful, surrender

Lynde Salgados
Daughters of Misamis Oriental cult murder victim unremorseful, surrender

David Castuciano/Rappler

Police say the cult leader made his followers perform a ritual dance while behind bars, while they chanted things policemen did not understand

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines – Two daughters of an elderly woman who was killed in a brutal cult ritual in Misamis Oriental over the weekend surrendered to the police along with two other suspects, police confirmed on Wednesday afternoon, August 31.

But like cult leader Cresanto Ercilla (not Crisanto as previously reported) and the others who were arrested earlier, none of the suspects showed remorse for throwing their aging matriarch into a fire, said Major Teodoro de Oro, the town police chief of Balingasag where the killing took place.

The remaining four suspects turned themselves in on Tuesday, August 30, hours after the police filed a parricide complaint against the suspects before the Misamis Oriental Provincial Prosecutor’s Office.

De Oro identified the four surrenderers as Rosalinda and Merlinda Cabusas – daughters of victim Teofila Camongay-Cabusas – and siblings Jeramil and Jesser Rotula.

The Rotula brothers are the only suspects who are not members of Teofila’s clan. Jeramil is the partner of Jocelyn Cabusas Ercilla whose son Cresanto is being accused of being the brains behind the cult killing.

Cresanto, the 21-year-old leader of the cult, was arrested earlier along with his mother Jocelyn, uncle Nicholas Cabusas, siblings Romeo and Rochel, and cousins Reymer and Charlie Cabusas after they allegedly ganged up on the clan matriarch and threw her into a pile of burning wood in the village of Baliwagan in Balingasag town.

De Oro told Rappler that it was the Philippine Benevolent Christian Missionaries (PBCM) leader Charlito Eugenio who facilitated the surrender of the four suspects who eluded arrest after the ritual killing.

Cresanto and the other suspects are PBCM members, but Eugenio has disowned them right after the horrific ritual that sparked a public uproar in Misamis Oriental and Cagayan de Oro, a city more than 50 kilometers from the crime scene.

Loyal to the ‘divine master’

Even behind bars, De Oro said, the victim’s children and grandchildren have never shown signs of remorse.

De Oro said the cult members merely told curious Balingasag police personnel that Teofila was “destined” to the flames because of her “great sins.” 

Prodded for details, De Oro said, Cresanto’s cousin Charlie Cabusas – the suspect investigators found easiest to talk with – told the police that their leader resented that their grandmother rejected his claims, and refused to acknowledge him as the leader of the pack.

Investigators said the grandmother was a loyal and die-hard follower of the late Tomas Eugenio Sr., who was seen as the “divine master” by PBCM members.

“She did not want to have anything to do with them, and neither did she want to participate in their rituals,” De Oro said.

Tomas, who founded the PBCM after breaking away from the Dinagat Islands-based Philippine Benevolent Missionaries Association (PBMA) of the Ecleo political dynasty, had claimed to be the Holy Spirit reincarnate. 

He died in September 2004 and was succeeded by his son Charlito, now the barangay chairman of San Antonio in Jasaan, a town next to Balingasag where the gruesome killing took place.

De Oro said Charlito cooperated and helped in convincing the remaining suspects into surrendering because “he wanted to clear his father’s and the PBCM’s name.”

“We thank him (Eugenio) for helping us out,” De Oro said.

Hearing voices

Investigators said Cresanto has convinced many of his relatives that Tomas’ spirit was in him and that he was their new leader.

Cresanto also claimed that he heard voices that supposedly instructed him to have his grandmother thrown into a fire, police said.

The young cult leader was violent toward his followers and required obedience even behind bars.

De Oro said Cresanto demanded that his followers address him as “general,” and he hurt them if they disobeyed instructions.

He said Cresanto made his followers perform a ritual dance while behind bars, while they chanted things policemen did not understand.

“Their rituals deprived them of sleep,” he said.

De Oro also said Cresanto and his followers refused to take a bath and eat while in detention in the Balingasag police detention facility.

“They said the food and water were unclean,” he said.

Cresanto’s aunt Rosalinda, according to the police, said that whenever the young cult leader spoke in tongues, they would turn meek and follow.

Police said Cresanto was restless and violent that they cuffed him even behind bars and when they brought him and the other suspects to the prosecutor’s office for inquest proceedings on Tuesday. – Rappler.com

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